I went to have lunch at a Spokane area elementary school with my daughters yesterday. I won't mention the school or the district because my intent is not to pick on the district that I am proud of and passionately support. My intent here is to say that if you question whether our food system is broken, all you need to do is look at your local school's lunch menu to see the crisis in full bloom. Before I get all self-righteous let me say that I went to lunch with two happy meals in tow at the request of my daughters. My hands are as dirty (or should I say greasy) as anyone else.
So I sandwiched myself into a table with a bunch of third graders and we played with the toys from the Happy Meal. A teacher informed me that toys were not normally allowed in the lunch room but she would let it slide this time. The kids looked at me like I had just survived a close call with the wrath of the lunch room lady. Whew! Almost all the kids around me were eating the school lunch, and my response to seeing the days nutritional offerings was an involuntary, "What is that?!?!" "Pancake Porkies," the child in front of me explained with some enthusiasm. It was pigs in a blanket but not the way I remember them. These had the look of mojo potatoes at a gas station in the middle of nowhere at the end of a day under the heat lamp. Pancake Porkies describes them well. Next to that was a rectangle of fried hash browns. Next to that was a plastic bag of chocolate milk. Next to that was a mini egg and cheese omelette that had the look of a yellow sponge. There was orange juice but most of the kids didn't drink it.
I don't know the nutritional breakdown for that specific meal but here is the daily meal average for the week as reported on the school's menu - 23.3 grams of fat, 1545 mg of sodium, 84 mg cholesterol, 94 grams of carbs. Compare this with the USDA recommends for third graders - 130 total grams of carbs, 2200 milligrams of salt, and fat is measured as a percent of calories and I suspect a large portion of the 700 calories in the meal is from fat. I'm out of my area of expertise but my intuitive sense is that we're poisoning our children with cheap but unhealthy foods, McDonalds Happy Meals included.
Maybe someone with some background in nutrition can chime in here and speak to this.